Food Donations from Hereford arrive in Calais

Food clothing and other essential supplies continue to pour into to Calais from across the UK, and the people of Herefordshire are doing their bit to help those living in the Jungle refugee camp.

Calais Jungle Refugee Camp

Last week a van full of donated food and water left Hereford for the long journey down to Folkstone. This is the second time donations have been taken directly from Hereford to Calais. The Hecklers own Luthur Blissett went along to assist with driving.

All the food donations that are going from Hereford to Calais are being packed and organised via the Facebook group Food Donations for Calais and Dunkirk, Hereford Group. For this trip more than a quarter of a tonne of food donations were loaded into the van.

The rest of the load was bottled water kindly donated by a local mineral water company. In all a tonne of supplies left Hereford for the long drive down to the South East. The diesel and channel tunnel costs were covered by donations by people in Hereford and Ross-on-Wye.

After arriving in Calais late afternoon, a couple of hours were spent talking to local people to get their views on the crisis. Unfortunately for us the hotel we stayed in was full of French pigs. The copper we spoke to said of the migrants “We don’t want them here. We need to change the system so we can get rid of them”.

We were expecting an equally negative opinion from local people but were pleasantly surprised. Local bar owner Pascal told us that the main problem is that tourism in Calais has collapsed. English people no longer stop there on their way home. But he said many people are sympathetic to the plight of the refugees, and they are happy to help in any way they can.

Eric, a resident of Paris who was visiting Calais, said he knew who was blame for the crisis. “David Cameron, he’s the one who can sort this out. But he prefers to play politics with these people.”

After spending the night in Calais we delivered our van load of supplies to the warehouse in an industrial estate on the west side of Calais. A hive of activity, staffed by young British volunteers, they were very grateful for our delivery. We were told that the food and water would be sorted into individual food parcels and distributed within days.

Children in Calais Jungle

Children at the camp in 2015. Photo by Philippe Huguen

It was heartening to see the amount of tents, sleeping bags and clothing that had been sorted. Social media would have you believe that most people in the UK are antagonistic towards the refugees, but on the evidence we saw, many people give a shit and are donating a lot of essential stuff.

And it’s a good thing too. The charity Help Refugees estimates that there are over 500 unaccompanied children living in the Jungle. While British politicians argue about their tax returns, innocent children, many of whom have a right to come to the UK, are stuck in squalor and dependant on hand outs. It’s an utter disgrace but at least we can do something to help.

Once again ordinary people show that direct action can work when the politicians fail. Solidarity is alive and well and people in Hereford are playing their part.

These trips from Hereford to Calais will continue until the refugee crisis ends, and lets be honest that won’t be any time soon.

To make food donations, please click here or leave a comment below.

Luther Blissett

For more info visit –

Help Refugees www.helprefugees.org.uk/

Calaid www.calaidipedia.co.uk

 

 

Herefordshire Supports Refugees

In September this year the Hereford Times ran an online poll asking whether Herefordshire Council should accept 10 refugee families.

The result of the poll and the comments that were left on the Times’ website and Facebook page were truly depressing. They painted a picture of a county full of misinformed bigots with no sympathy for those far worse off than themselves. Many comments were racist and offensive, most were removed. The result of the poll was overwhelmingly against helping the refugees.

Three months on and the picture couldn’t be more different. Many grass roots organisations across the county are now working directly with those 6000 desperate people who are stuck in Calais. Our faith in people has been restored.

Groups are now working in Ross, Ledbury, Leominster, Bromyard and Hereford offering practical support and assistance. The collection of food, clothing and other essentials are being collected and taken directly to France. Ross for Refugees has even assisted in the construction of a school for those children currently living in Calais.

But with cold weather fast approaching the need has never been greater to get involved or help in any way possible.

Please find below links to groups who are helping the refugees. Please contact them to find out what donations they are accepting –

Ross for Refugees

Food Parcels for Calais, Hereford Group

Ledbury Refugee Support

Priory Church Leominster 01568 610785 or text 07790 762138

Please comment below if you know of other groups accepting donations.

Luther Blissett

A movement of people

Movement of peopleWhen David Cameron came to power in 2010, he pledged to reduce net annual immigration into the UK to below 100,000. It is still running at over 200,000. More desperate people than ever pile up at Calais trying to get in, and the number of ‘illegal immigrants’ caught trying to enter Britain has quadrupled since 2010.

Concern over immigration – some of it understandable, some of it racist, much of it ill-informed – lies behind the rise of UKIP. But even if Nigel Farage and his friends came to power, would they be any more effective than the Tories at stemming the influx? Withdrawal from the EU might reduce the number of east Europeans arriving, though it would also mean taking back some of the expats who retired to the sunny half of Europe in the days when property there looked like a good investment. But the pressure from the millions of refugees and dispossessed who risk their savings and their lives crossing deserts and oceans to reach the eldorado that we in the industrialised countries take for granted is not going to fade away just because a demagogue is momentarily a darling of the hustings.

The root cause of the migration taking place across the world is the huge disparity of wealth between rich countries and poor. The disparity is easily traced back to the ‘great divergance’ when European nations became far richer than everyone else by colonising much of the world and developing fossil fuel energy. Their vast wealth was built on stolen resources, and largely processed by forced labour which often required shipping people around the world. Nowadays many people ship themselves voluntarily, but the inequalities are greater than ever, and so are the movements.

When, during the 20th century, citizens united in a failed attempt to create a fairer world through the socialist international, the capitalist countries vaunted their privileged lifestyle from the other side of the Iron Curtain. ‘Come and join us,’ they beckoned – without explaining that the flipside of the capitalist wealth was the misery of those in the global south who produced it. Socialist governments introduced measures to prevent their citizens emigrating, but this only enabled western countries to portray themselves as bastions of liberty.

What rejoicing there was when the Berlin Wall came down! ‘Welcome to the west,’ the capitalists cried, and the EU was expanded eastwards at breakneck speed. Two decades later, populist politicians in the UK are chasing cheap votes by loudly proclaiming that liberated citizens of those former socialist countries should stay at home.

Population movements certainly bring changes, some welcome and some less so. If it is true that immigration is changing British culture, that may be the price Britain has to pay for having pillaged so many other countries. But in many ways, British culture (whatever that is) is greatly enriched by new arrivals.

The only way to reduce the flow of immigrants will be to rid the world of economic and social injustice. Enabling immigration is one way of achieving this – not least because the remittances that immigrants, be they Romanians or Rwandans, send back to their home countries, dwarf the miserable amounts many rich countries donate in aid. Welcoming immigrants is perhaps Britain’s best chance of paying back the debt it owes to the rest of the world.

The Land

Welcome to Poland: ‘immigrants have changed Hereford’

Enlightened national bog roll, the Daily Mail, has claimed Herefordians are so fed up with east European migrants ‘flooding’ into the area that we all think Hereford would be better off named Poland.

“Many residents are concerned about the pressure the migrants and their children are putting on schools and other services, while others fear the town is losing its distinctive character,” said the paper.

“Resident John Bull, 45, said: ‘I think a lot of people are concerned that the town now feels more like Kraków than a traditional market town.

“‘There is a real frustration that the Poles are taking over the area.

“‘I applaud the people who changed the town’s sign because that’s how lots of people feel – it’s not Hereford anymore.'” Apparently.

So we at Heckler HQ have been wondering, what has actually changed about Hereford since the east Europeans have started living and working here? And how are Polish people ‘taking over the area’?

The religion is the same, the food is more or less the same, the fashions are the same, there’s no segregated east Europeans areas (with the exception of several rural farm camps)… All we can see is that a few empty shops have been reopened as foreign food stores and you now hear Polish and Lithuanian (amongst other languages) spoken on the streets instead the usual local and Welsh accents. Are we missing something? Perhaps we are.

So let’s open this out: how, specifically, are east Europeans taking over Herefordshire? And how are they changing it for the worse?